Finding paradise

The sea was as flat as a pan when we set out from the shores of barangay Manay-as in Badian for barangay Lambug, five km or so by land and half that by water. Being the amateur sailors that we were, my brother, a nephew and I stuck close to the shore, never venturing beyond the coastal reef and into the blue of Tañon Strait.

Years of careful management of the area kept the coral beds and reefs intact. Fishes of a variety of shapes and colors as well as every imaginable crustacean darted in and out of their underwater abode as our banca passed by overhead, easily slicing the placid water, which here and there peaked in little waves as a light breeze blew.

A fisherman, bemused with our struggles to keep the banca moving in the right direction, looked at us for a time and then went back to tending his net. Children ran on the shore, chasing each other and their innocence away. Travelers from the city and neighboring towns sought refuge in the cool sand and frolicked in the water, careful not to go too far lest the deep and sea urchins harm them. An off-key voice wafted far off, perhaps that of a half-drunk man going at it at the seaside videoke, whose owner one had to wake late at night with some trepidation for she looked sour (but was in truth as friendly as the natives were).

Typical of small towns, the people one met in Badian on land or on water were unpretentious, happy and positive. A cousin who’s been living there for well over a decade was optimistic that though she and her farmer-vet husband were having difficulty seeing their kids through college, the latter would do just fine.

Cousin didn’t even mind that her household did not have running water until her husband, whose family was rooted in the town, sided with the party that eventually won the polls. They had water after that, she told me, albeit with intermittent service interruptions. Her family coped by building a water tank so they could have access anytime. She didn’t think of the situation as those of us schooled in the Bill of Rights do — that basic services should be made available to everyone, no matter his persuasions and beliefs.

This forgiving attitude of many of us Pinoys is, what I think, made us still poor and powerless even after half a century of being freed from American colonial rule. Instead of asserting, demanding and doing something about things, we simply choose to consign our problems to memory, ignore the suffering or drown our woes in beer, tales and song. But I’m confident we’ll slowly learn to mature as a people. Coupled with the innate skill of involving ourselves with the affairs of our neighbors no matter how trifling or life changing they are, we’ll eventually progress, and make this paradise of a country truly the Eden it’s supposed to be.

First published in Cebu Daily News, April 28, 2005

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